The trading area and interface between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe, the Maghreb, has become an essential component of the stability of the EU and the Mediterranean thanks to its geographical position, human resources and its energy potential. Despite a long-lasting, tempestuous and sometimes difficult relationship, Europe and Maghreb are now more than ever linked by their shared interests.
Nevertheless, the Maghreb region must face up to its many challenges, from geopolitical interests to sustainable development issues, encompassing economic challenges, migration and security in order to maximize its wealth and potential. Among the more obvious hindrances are the increasing flow of migration from Sub-Saharan countries, the rise of terrorism and trafficking, the frozen conflict in Western Sahara and the numerous consequent obstacles, in addition to the clear lack of regional integration.
In an effort to address these concerns, the Thomas More Institute intends to initiate a new pragmatic Euro-Maghreb strategy in its latest report, which tracks of reflection and operational recommendations to redefine this partnership (See the ITM report). The report was released shortly after the redefinition of the new European Internal Security Strategy, and a few weeks before the summit of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
With a strong emphasis on the security at stake in the region, and the goal of establishing and reinforcing a "sustainable security" that would benefit all stakeholders including the EU, the report suggests that cooperation in the fight against illegal migration in the Maghreb should be strengthened and that new FRONTEX regional offices, with specially allocated resources, should be opened in the Sahelian zone. The report also seeks to promote regional integration and cooperation, especially by encouraging the creation of a free-trade area, and proposes a strengthening of the Euro-Maghreb partnership by relying more on existing collaborative infrastructure such as energy and sustainable development. Furthermore, the report insists on a real and fair political solution to the conflict in Western Sahara, which has been a source of blockades for thirty years, through the recognition of the validity of the 2007 Moroccan proposal for autonomy. Lastly, and more broadly speaking, the report underlines the need to put the issue of Trans-Maghreb cooperation and regional integration back on the EU's political agenda alongside various European Commission agendas like Neighborhood, Development, Trade and the new International Cooperation.
The European Union has a historical legitimacy, a concrete ability to drive policy forward towards better regional integration, and, for now, specific interests to commit itself thoroughly in the Maghreb. Sustainable security in the region as well as European stability depends on effective EU-Maghreb collaboration.
Jean-Thomas Lesueur is the CEO of the Thomas More Institute, a European Independent Think Tank. With a Master's degree in Modern History (Paris IV Sorbonne), he first worked for the Montaigne Institute before joining Thomas More Institute in 2004 and becoming CEO in 2007. He is also a member of the Editorial Board of the journal Géoéconomie. This piece was edited by Caroline Ducarme, assistant fellow at the Thomas More Institute.
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